Retrospecting A Retrospective: Three Simple Ideas

These exercises are a part of the Retrospective Cheat Sheet.

I recently blogged on 5 common pitfalls of retrospectives, in this post I'll share some ideas how to gather feedback on your retrospectives in order to fine-tune them.

Kaizen vs. Kaikaku

Although the described ideas are suitable for collecting quick feedback on any meeting, I'm sharing there in the context of running agile retrospectives.

Retrospectives as any other activity can and need to be improved over time. And as to anything, you can make radical one-time (kaikaku) or an evolutionary continuous (kaizen) changes.

Don't change the format radically every time, though.

Make a check to see if your retrospectives have any sign of the five retrospective pitfalls:

  • No Actionable Action
  • ScrumMaster Takes It All
  • Complainer's Club
  • Overcooked
  • Yet Another Scrum Meeting 

If yes, then I'd rather recommend you re-think the agenda altogether and do a big revolutionary change (kaikaku). There are many ideas around - just google "retrospective exercises" or use the great Retromat. A radical change can lead faster to a much better sudden improvement than a series of smaller adjustments.

Otherwise, tuning and tweaking continuously might be a good option.

Gathering Quick Feedback

If you're already designing your retros based on the well-known Derby/Larsen retrospective format, then you have a placeholder for the 5th stage is "Close the Retrospective".

If not, just allocate 5 minutes in the end of the meeting. And do one of the following:


Goal: to collect ideas on what attendees liked about the retro (pluses), as well as the improvement points (deltas).



  1. Divide a flip-chart vertically or use two flip-chart sheets. Name the left one "+" and the other one as "Δ".
  2. Explain that any minus point (nonconstructive feedback) can be converted into a delta point (a request to change). Give an example: "we didn't have enough time - it is a minus; let's spend next retro more time on more important topics - a delta".
  3. Ask your attendees to shout what they think was great and what needs to be improved. Scribe as they speak. It is OK to write a summary, e.g. "better timing" for "let's spend next retro more time on more important topics".
  4. Explicitly ask for several pluses before any deltas are shared.
  5. When negative points ("minuses") are shared, help to convert them into deltas before writing them down. Any minus can be converted to a delta.
  6. Keep the sharing going by asking open-ended and encouraging questions, like: "anything else we should consider improving? was there anything else you liked? anyone has any other ideas? how about few more minutes on this?"


Instead of a facilitator scribing the ideas of the attendees one by one (slow and also results in group thinking), ask everyone to write on post-its and stick them to the corresponding side of a flip-chat. 



Ask people to dot vote on the deltas to get the priorities of improvements.

Sources: learned in slightly different variants from Sergey Dmitriev and others.


Goal: measure satisfaction rate of the attendees from the retrospective.


  1. By using a coloured masking tape on a door (wall) create a vertical axe.
  2. Mark the top of the axe with a 😀, a middle part with a 😐,  and the bottom with a 😕.
  3. Ask the attendees while leaving the room stick a post-it to represent their feeling of their time invested. Meaning: how wise their time was spent on the meeting.


  • Use a range: e.g. 1..5 or 1..10 instead of the smileys.
  • Instead of asking people to stick a post-it while leaving, ask them to stay and when all the post-its are up on the wall, open up a discussion asking everyone in a round-robin: "what do we need to change on the next retro, so that you would put your post-it higher?" 

Sources: book Agile Retrospectives, Perfection Game and others.

3. FUN vs. USE

Goal: measure how fun and how useful was the retrospective.

An extension to the "Return on Time Invested"


  1. Follow the instructions from the "Return on Time Invested" with the vertical axe for "fun".
  2. Add a horizontal axe "use" and separate it into three parts: "little or no use", "quite OK" and "super". You can write these statements on post-its close to the axe.
  3. Do exactly as you'd do with the "Return on Time Invested", asking the attendees to stick one post-it while leaving.


  • Instead of asking to stick empty post-its (what a waste??) ask to write improvement ideas on them!
  • Once all post-its are up there, use a dot-voting technique to have the ideas prioritized.

What To Do With The FeedbacK?

Well, you asked for it? Now work on it! :)

Seriously, it is a big topic. And as I said, there are many books and articles written that provide enough inspiration for experimenting with retrospective agendas.

One thing to remember though: your ultimate goal as a ScrumMaster is to teach retrospectives to the team so that they are able to run them themselves. Keeping this in mind: you'd better pair up with the teammates on designing and running the team-level retrospectives.

It is not just about unloading you (which is also good), but it also has a significant impact on team's self-management, level of responsibility and ... and much more than I can't explain in written words.


How to create retrospective agendas that drive change? How to add more fun and engagement without losing the focus? How to raise the team's willingness to take actions? 


Check out my mini-book Agile Retrospective Kickstarter.




The book explains in greater details all the 16 exercises of the cheat sheet.

Write a comment

Comments: 4
  • #1

    Paul Verest (Monday, 30 November 2015 07:32)

    maybe a little too long, but taking this as summary gives a lot for thought

  • #2

    Alexey Krivitsky (Monday, 30 November 2015 08:49)

    Hi Paul

    Thanks a lot. I've just finished describing the other 13 exercises that I use often. That's not making it shorter :) but I believe it also can be useful.



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